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18 June 2014

57% of parents in law children proceedings are unrepresented

The number of unrepresented (i.e. acting without a lawyer to represent them) parents has risen by 57%, Family Law Week reports.

Between April and December 2013 57% of parties involved in private law children proceedings (cases between parents) were unrepresented.

This is an increase of 57% upon the number unrepresented parties in the previous year.

In the period from April to December 2012 the proportion was 41%.

In its evidence to the Commons Justice Select Committee's enquiry into the effect of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the Judicial Executive Board said that where legal aid has been removed and individuals have become self-represented the adverse impact upon courts' administration and efficiency has been considerable.

Often such cases lead to increased cost as, for example, anecdotally cases take longer.

The Judiciary's perception is that cases which may never have been brought or been compromised at an early stage are now often fully contested requiring significantly more judicial involvement and causing consequential delays across the civil, family and tribunals justice systems.

Figures indicate that take up of mediation and ADR services have reduced meaning more cases are dealt with by the courts and tribunals.

More recently a survey of magistrates revealed that 97% of those polled believe that self-representation has a negative impact on the court's work.